Posted by: Jena Davison | March 13, 2010

The Ecovia

I have yet to dedicate a post to my primary mode of transportation in Quito, the Ecovia, though it is definitely post worthy. The Ecovia was not only the site of my recent wallet robbery, but it is essentially hypocrisy on wheels. Although the “Eco” part of “Ecovia” reflects its supposed eco-friendly qualities, in reality, the bus constantly spits out clouds of black smoke as it huffs and puffs its way across the city.

Nonetheless, the Ecovia is a super convenient (and cheap, only $0.25) way to get around. It crawls its way down one of Quito’s main roads, 6 de Diciembre, which spans across the larger part of the city (the greater downtown at least), making many stops along the way. I take the Ecovia to and from work everyday and to nearly everywhere during the day on the weekends. As soon as it’s nighttime, though, I switch over to cabs because it is not particularly safe to take the bus at night, nor is it safe to walk from the bus stops to my final destinations.

The thing about the Ecovia is that it is filled beyond capacity 90% of the time. Of the over 100 times I have taken it, I have actually had a seat five times, maybe. Then there were probably the other five times or so when a kind gentleman offered up his seat to me and I turned it down. Besides those instances, I always stand. I always stand, and sometimes, if I am lucky, I have enough room to breathe and move. Seriously, though, I am usually scrambling for an inch of bar or free handle to hold on to so that I can semi-avoid hurling forward with every screech of the brake. In fact, going on the Ecovia requires a certain level of upper and lower body strength. The driver is not really kind when it comes to braking and turning, so I often find myself planting my feet into the floor in a stance similar to a baseball player who has just stepped up to the plate to bat.

Fitting into the Ecovia is a challenge in and of itself. Some of my friends from work and I often have to wait for four or five Ecovias to pass before we can fit on one. And we aren’t even being that picky. We are talking about passing buses with numerous people squooshed up against the windows–people packed so tight that you can literally feel the boner of the gross man pushing up against you (and sadly, this has happened to me). We are talking about looking eye to eye with a complete stranger and breathing in each other’s breath. We are talking about sometimes being in someone’s armpit because there is just nowhere else to put your head. We are talking about instances when the bus makes a sudden stop and no one moves because wait, there is nowhere to move to.

Sometimes, people even pile in past the door and then allow the door to push them in, kind of like how a trash compactor may stuff wrappers, banana peels and Chinese food cartons into an airless mass of crap. I have found that Ecuadorians certainly display a lot more tolerance for stuff like this. But after a long day of work, my tolerance level is exceptionally frayed and I am just not in the mood for it. It all really comes down to this: there are just too many people relying on this bus system and there are not enough buses to support them.

However, there are also those weird times when the Ecovia is just surprisingly, inexplicably empty. Like, when four buses pass by full to the brim and then one chugs along with enough room that you could actually bust out a hula-hoop and still not be touching another human being. Those instances are wonderful and a breath of fresh air, literally.

About two weeks ago, I was on the bus and there was an absurd amount of traffic so it was inching its way down 6 de Diciembre at a less-than-favorable pace. This may have been fine if it had been the latter situation, but it was actually super full and sweaty, so passengers were LOSING IT. In theory, the Ecovia has its own lane to drive down, but in reality, cars and other motorized vehicles will interpret it as theirs as well, especially when there is standstill traffic in the other lanes. This is exactly what happened in this scenario; cars clogged up the Ecovia lane so the bus was barely moving. Ecuadorians started screaming in Spanish, and eventually one guy asked the driver to please open the emergency exit, which he did, and people started rushing out of the bus like steam from a piping hot, freshly brewed cup of coffee.

I also have come to the conclusion that these buses are rather dirty as well. I mean, I suppose you can assume this knowing that thousands of people use them every single day, but the actual realization occurred when I watched a guy go to town on a booger a few weeks ago. I am telling you, like no. shame. whatsoever. He was reaching so far into his nostrils, I could barely see his pointer finger anymore. And then he got other fingers involved and approached the task from other angles. You would think he was digging for gold or fishing for a shark or something, but no. It was absolutely disgusting, really. And as if that wasn’t enough, he took the same grimy hands he used to poke around his nasal cavity with to grip the metal bar of the bus. That was the moment when I started carrying hand sanitizer with me everywhere.

There are also some interesting characters that take the Ecovia. Besides the suited workmen and shady thieves, there are sometimes blind men begging for money or children singing (with the most hideous voices, sad to say) or selling gum/candy for some change as well. One time a family came aboard and played some African drums, then asked for a propina, por favor (tip, please). I am always surprised by the kindness of the people on the bus, who often throw 10 or 25 cents in the direction of these desperate souls. Of course, there is also a fair share of dirty hippies and blonde, loud-speaking Americans that grace the bus with their presence as well, adding an element of diversity (ha!).

So, for 25 cents, I guess you can say it’s often times one hell of a trip.



  1. this post makes me glad to be in the USA..haha…just kidding. but seriously that bus situation seems like one big headache. too bad there is no subway?

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